Curiosity and Awareness

Curiosity and Awareness temper our need to be right!

Over the last 2 weeks we have explored the power of expectations. While it is undoubtedly true that our expectations create our reality, at least in part, it's also true that sometimes our expectations are not met, or something really unexpected happens. It's way too simplistic to say all you need is a good set of expectations and everything will go well for you. 

Curiosity and Awareness are key tools to ensure that we are able to deal with unexpected events, or unexpected results.

Research in areas as diverse as business, survival, sport, military, and neuroscience has highlighted and clearly documented the human ability to create mental models. If you would like to know more about this some great books on the topic are Deep SurvivalIconoclast5th Discipline and Blink.

Mental models present a two edged sword.

On the upside, they are one of the most amazing functions of the human mind. They transform us from a purely reactive entity responding to opportunities and threats at a primal level. Mental models give us the ability to rapidly assimilate and generalise information across a range of settings and contexts.

Mental models help us learn, make judgments, develop wisdom, create new ideas and transfer learning between seemingly unrelated areas and events in our lives.

On the down side they lull us into a sense of certainty about "the way things are", often creating unconscious or inflexible expectations. These are precisely the type of expectations that lead to the problems discussed in the first article of this series.

A mental model at its worst becomes like a giant set of blinkers, creating a myopic view of the world. In this condition we are only able to perceive the things that confirm our mental model, even if there is ample evidence that it may be flawed.

In business this can result in decisions being made, and then a dogged determination to see it through despite ample evidence that the decision was an ineffective one. The same can be true in our personal lives as well - You may have even experienced it yourself.

When we look back with the 20:20 vision of hindsight we can often see these patterns clearly, but it takes discipline to pick up on them "in the moment".

Once the brain picks a mental model, it expends less and less energy, increasingly assuming the model to be true, and only paying attention to information that confirms this assumption.

Enter Curiosity and Awareness. They are the most powerful tools of the survivalist mind and the only remedy to falling into the trap of inflexible mental models. 

Awareness is a discipline. It is a commitment to scan widely for new or different information. There are a range of skills and tools that can be learnt and mastered to increase awareness.

Curiosity has a lightness and wondering about it, not taking itself too seriously.  Curiosity will notice small inconsistencies and ask "now why is that?" Curiosity will seek the novel, even in the mundane and familiar. Curiosity wonders at the links and relationships between all things. Again there are skills and tools that can be learnt to enhance curiosity and its effectiveness. 

Cultivate these 2 gems!!